|My name is DuAnne Seeley and I’m a woman in ministry. It’s not always easy, but then it’s not always easy for men, either. My greatest passion is equipping and empowering leaders. The bottom line is – I love what I do.
Looking back over the past twenty-five years of ministry I see how God has prepared me for the ministry I have today. In my early 20’s I was hired at Briarwood Church in Birmingham, Alabama to develop an assimilation ministry for 3000+ members. With a love for the beach I couldn’t say no to my next opportunity – suffering for Jesus in San Diego with The Navigators. Nine years later and I was invited to serve on the staff at Skyline Church in San Diego. It was during my ministry at Skyline as a lay person and later on the pastoral staff that I grew most as a leader.
Today I am married to a wonderful man I call Bubba. Please don’t tell anyone his nickname. He is a pastor and church planter in New York City where we live on Staten Island. I am a mother of two boys, a dog and a cat. I am also the Founder and President for Women of Influence, an organization dedicated to developing women into better leaders. As time allows, I serve as a church consultant.
Often I am asked “What are the key ingredients to the making of a woman in leadership?” My answer always begins with – “That depends.” Just as churches vary, people are unique and at different stages of development. My preference is to a design personal growth and leadership development plan for the individual. But in this brief article I will attempt to identify a few basic principles God uses to develop a woman in leadership.
1. Embrace Your Call
A colleague of mine once said to a potential supervisor who was interviewing me – “She is like a man in a woman’s body.” While I laughed this off as humor, inside it hurt me deeply. A woman with the gift of leadership can sometimes question why she is different from the crowd. The truth is that God is the one who hands out spiritual gifts. He did not make a mistake. The gifts of the Spirit are not gender specific. It is God’s desire for you to use whatever gift He has given you for His glory. In order to lead people you must be personally secure in this truth. Be true to who God designed you to be. The first step in this process is being honest with yourself and others. As soon as you accept who you are you can embrace your call and begin the most exciting journey of a lifetime.
2. Walk With God
This is so elementary that I hesitate to bring it up. Yet I am compelled to talk about this because of my experience in church consulting and coaching people in ministry. Your relationship with God is more important than any single factor in your life. As a woman, you may an incredibly gifted and intelligent leader and an outstanding communicator, but if you do not possess a growing and dynamic walk with Jesus, you can’t lead others in their walk. You can’t give what you don’t possess. Everything in your life should be an overflow of your walk with the Lord. I agree with Dr. Blackaby who said “People who struggle to spend time with God don’t have a scheduling problem; they have a love problem.”
3. Growth Is Not An Option
The beginning of leadership is to understand that you don’t know as half as much as you think. Sometimes with the gift of leadership comes pride. This is very ugly and I recognize it quickly because it was part of my life as a young leader. Pride held me back until I learned that success in ministry is about the underserved blessing and favor of God more than my gifts or hard work. Pride (which is insecurity) will destroy God’s work faster than anything else.
Knowing how much you don’t know is a prerequisite for growth. Growth is required for every leader, and as soon as you stop growing you stop leading. Some women who want to lead have at best a vague idea of what leadership is. They haven’t worked out any kind of personal growth plan. Growth is not an option and all leaders, men and women, must continue to set goals for growth. Development is not automatic, it does not necessarily come with ministry experience, nor as a result of gathering information. Personal growth must be intentional, planned and consistent.
Who is mentoring you? Who are you learning from? Determine what areas of your life you need to grow in. Next find a coach with a passion for leadership development. What books are you reading this month? I remember in my 20’s staying up all night reading books. If the book really impacted me I would call up the author for an interview. All were gracious and eager to discuss what they had written. I never had one decline my request. Some of the books on my library shelf still have the phone number on the inside cover.
Keep improving. Schedule a time to write out a personal growth plan. And remember that if you quit growing you quit. Women in leadership are women who did not quit.
4. Know Yourself
One of most rewarding parts of my job is meeting one on one with a woman for the purpose of helping them learn who they are. I am always eager to ask “what are your three greatest strengths?” Until a leader knows her self she will never reach her greatest potential. A person should spend 80% of her time doing things that require their greatest strengths and abilities. Therefore you need to be trained and developed primarily in areas of strength. This will give you the greatest return.
People who don’t comprehend their strengths often struggle with priorities and delegation. Being informed of your strengths will allow you to prioritize and spend the majority of your time on what is most rewarding. Life is too short not to be fun.
An added benefit of playing to your strengths is passion. Passion will always give you an edge over someone more gifted with less passion. We saw this in the last Super Bowl. The Patriots were the odds on favorite by far. In fact, they were so heavily favored that Vegas book-makers lost more money than they had ever lost on a Super Bowl. The Patriots had a better record and superior athletes. But they did not have more passion than the Giants! The Giants beat the Patriots 17 to 14.
Another important aspect of knowing yourself is being in touch with what refills depleted emotions. Different prescriptions work for different people so the important thing is to know what refills your tank. For me it is going somewhere fun with my family away from my home office. If they are not available, then I enjoy coffee with a friend. What does it for you? Time alone? A hobby? A good movie? The point is not so much what it is, as whether or not you carve out the time and make it happen. Not refueling your tank when it is empty leads to lack of productivity, fatigue and ultimately burnout.
5. Find Your Place
Working outside of your gift area can result in frustration and disappointment. Last year I began coaching Bonnie, a sharp and dynamic woman who was considering leaving full time ministry at her church. When she discovered her design we realized she was not using her greatest gifts. When her Executive Pastor placed her in a different position it was a win/win for everyone.
Finding your place will enable you to live with purpose and prevent the confusion and weariness that can happen when you’re wandering or chasing a vision that isn’t from God. It’s crucial to follow a vision that’s His and uniquely yours at the same time. How can you do that? Seek out the advice of your pastor who can serve as a chief counselor in this process. He can also direct you to Biblical studies and objective assessments as you seek to determine God’s vision for your life and ministry. Like anything good and meaningful in life it requires work, prayer, guidance and time. For a woman in leadership, that time isn’t just well spent, it’s absolutely essential.
Sometimes God will put a vision on your heart but He may need to prepare you for what He has prepared for you. Two decades ago God put a burden on my heart to start a ministry committed to developing women who have great potential, but opportunities for them to learn leadership have been limited. For twenty years the timing was not right but God was training me. Now this dream has become a reality and we are equipping women to become multiplying leaders.
Once a leader has found her place it will be less difficult to live a prioritized life. It will also be easier to say no to a ministry that is not in line with God’s vision for her ministry. Last week I called Ann Graham Lotz to request she prayerfully consider being one of our WIN staff speakers. She graciously refused because her place at this time is the “Just Give Me Jesus” revival services.
As you consider these principles, establish checkpoints to clarify where you are in the process. What little things could you begin tweaking today that would make you a better leader for Jesus? The ministry of leadership development will be molded by God throughout your lifetime. May you be encouraged as you see God’s direct hand in your ongoing development.